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Four People Treated For Rabies After Being Bitten By Raccoon

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A raccoon remains on the loose after biting four people in Georgetown, Washington. The creature was said to be displaying "aggressive" behavior on at least one of the attacks.   ( Jean-Christophe Verhaegen | AFP/Getty images )

Four people get treatments for potential rabies exposure from a raccoon bite in Washington. A fifth person who apparently lost a flip-flop during the attack was not treated, while the raccoon is still at large.

Raccoon Attack

In Georgetown, Washington, four people who were bitten by a raccoon near Montrose Park were given rabies treatments, as they might have been potentially exposed to the virus. At least one of the incidents evidently happened on Wednesday near 31st and R streets Northwest, though it is not clear whether the four patients encountered the same raccoon.

All four were treated at the emergency department of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital as a precaution, and at one point, a fifth person whose flip-flop was stolen by the raccoon also came to the hospital but did not require any treatment. All of them have already been released but will have to return for three more vaccines in the coming weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the DC Department of Health, Tom Lalley, in one of the cases, the raccoon was said to have acted aggressively toward the person as it went for an attack. Given the raccoon's reported strange behavior during the incidents, he stated that a logical conclusion could be that the raccoon was rabid, although that is yet to be confirmed.

So far, the raccoon hasn't been captured yet, but authorities are calling for anyone who may have had contact with a raccoon in the area to contact a health care provider as well as the department of health.

Rabies Virus

Rabies is a preventable viral disease that can be spread through the bite of a rabid animal. It may affect all types of mammals, but in most cases, reports of rabid animals involve skunks, foxes, bats, and raccoons. This virus is very dangerous, as it attacks the central nervous system and may eventually cause death.

In fact, though its early symptoms such as headache, fever, and weakness, run similar to those of other diseases, once its specific symptoms appear, death usually occurs within days. These specific symptoms include hydrophobia or fear of water, increase in saliva, excitation, anxiety, insomnia, partial paralysis, agitation, difficulty swallowing, and hallucination. Once these symptoms begin to show, survival is very rare. In fact, there are only 10 cases of human survival from clinical rabies.

As with most bite wounds, gently washing the bite site with water is important in reducing the risk of bacterial infection, but it is very important to be treated with post-exposure anti-rabies vaccination on the day of the exposure, and 3, 7, and 14 days after.

In the United States, human fatalities related to rabies happen when the patient does not seek proper treatment likely because they were unaware of the bite in the first place.

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